March 13 - March 16, at 8PM | March 16, at 2 PM
Oil and Water is based on the true story of Lanier Phillips, a young African American officer, who in 1942 was one of 46 men who survived the wreck of the naval ship Truxtun off St. Lawrence on the isolated south coast of Newfoundland. Taken to shore, Phillips was cared for with great generosity and humanity by the people of the community. As the story goes his skin was scrubbed raw by a local woman, Violet Pike, who was mystified as to why the black oil of the wreck would not come off. Growing up in such an isolated area, Mrs. Pike had never seen a person of colour before. As a son of the racially segregated south, Phillips was blown away by the apparent absence of racism. His encounter with the residents of St. Lawrence had a massive and lasting effect on him, spurring him on to be a well-known civil rights activist in the US. He continued to have a relationship with the people of St. Lawrence up until his death just last year.
Oil and Water is a large-scale choral work about race, community, and bicultural harmony. The play unfolds in three distinct stories: Lanier and his fellow sailors onboard the ill fated ship, as they struggle to reach shore following the Truxtun’s wreck; the people of St. Lawrence, wrestling with their own emerging problem of industrial lung didease, and their rescue and salvage during the unfolding disaster; and finally, Lanier, many years later, faced with an increasingly restless daughter, and his attempts to foster tolerance and peace within her during the Boston school race riots. Over the course of the play, these strands begin to dovetail and weave to collectively tell a story of transformation, loss, and reconciliation. Jillian Keiley’s direction sees all three stories sharing a multi-defined space dominated by seasoned wooden planks, metal washtubs, a ten-foot high steel ship’s ladder on rocking horse legs, and flying water. The cast-generated music is an a capella blend of Newfoundland tunes and the tight harmonies of the American deep south gospel tradition, devised by Toronto based composer and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Craig, and directed by internationally celebrated Newfoundland choral conductor Kellie Walsh.